A court in India has ruled that premarital sex amounts to marriage, which has sparked humorous reactions across the Internet and a heated debate over the fundamental relationship between a man and a woman.
The Hindu reports that the Madras High Court ruled on Monday that if a couple of legal age chooses to "indulge in sexual gratification," this act would confirm the relationship as a marriage. The ruling further stated that the religious affectations that usually mark traditional wedding ceremonies are merely societal formalities and thus not required to legally cement marriage.
According to the New York Times, the judge's statement came after hearing an appeal by a woman who sued her former live-in boyfriend of five years to pay child support for their two children. A lower court had previously ruled the woman was not owed any money because there was no documentary evidence of a legal marriage between the couple. On Monday, this ruling was overturned, stating the couple's sexual relationship was tantamount to being wed.
"If any couple chooses to consummate their sexual cravings, then that act becomes a total commitment with adherence to all consequences that may follow, except on certain exceptional considerations," the ruling states, via the New York Times.
Predictably, Indians on social media reacted with sarcastic incredulity:
Despite how easily the ruling lends itself to punch lines, however, people argue that this new definition of marriage and premarital sex may actually be a groundbreaking moment for progressivism in tradition-minded India. While some agree with feminist writer Urvashi Butalia's assessment that the ruling "brings in a morality that should not be there," others argue that it expands the definition and practical applications of male-female relationships, effectively legalizing live-in situations and regarding them as common-law marriage.
Still, the primacy the ruling places on sex in the definition of marriage and legitimate male-female relationships could become a concern down the road. And despite the fact that premarital sex is on the rise among Indian youths, as reported by the National Confederation of Human Rights Organizations, it was considered a statutory offense in the country until 2010 and is still very much a taboo, the Indian Express notes.
Last year, a Delhi judge condemned the "infamous western cultural product" of cohabitational relationships while sentencing a woman convicted of killing her live-in boyfriend, the Hindustan Times reported at the time. "Despite all the developments granting a level of legal legitimacy to live-in relationship, it is largely perceived to be an immoral relation in our society," the judge said.